Congress Approves Sweeping Protections to America’s Parks and Public Lands
Today, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act (H.R. 1957) to protect and enhance our national parks and public lands for decades to come. This is increasingly important now in the face of a rapidly changing climate and a backlog of maintenance issues. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01) is a cosponsor of the bill and voted in support of its passage.
The bill fully and permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a priority of DelBene’s for years, and ensures that the non-taxpayer dollars that go towards it are used expressly for their intended purposes and not diverted elsewhere. The Great American Outdoors Act also directs up to $9.5 billion in non-taxpayer funds to address priority repairs in national parks and on other public lands.
“I am proud to say that I represent the most beautiful congressional district in the country, but in the face of a growing climate crisis and underfunded maintenance to our parks and public lands, we cannot take this beauty for granted,” said DelBene. “This bill will ensure the resources that are needed to protect these lands will go to their intended purpose so that generations to come can enjoy all the beauty our country has to offer.”
The LWCF provides funding to help protect some of Washington’s most treasured natural environments and ensure recreational access for hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities. Washington has received approximately $726.2 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as the Skagit Wild and Scenic River, Cascade Ecosystems, Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks, Pacific Crest Trail, and Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. LWCF state assistance grants have further supported hundreds of projects across Washington’s state and local parks.
Active outdoor recreation supports 200,000 jobs and $26.2 billion in consumer spending to Washington’s economy.
“The Great American Outdoors Act is both an urgent, practical response to the COVID crisis as well as a commitment to future generations. This will create local jobs and increase access to the outdoors for Washingtonians when we need that now. It also protects what makes our region so special by restoring our parks and public lands for years to come,” said Rob Smith, Northwest Regional Director of the National Parks Conservation Association.
“The Mountaineers are thrilled to see this historic, bipartisan legislation pass the House and near the finish line. The Great American Outdoors Act will help maintain and enhance the wild places our 14,000 members love to explore, from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness to North Cascades National Park. We’re grateful for Representative DelBene’s strong support for our public lands and recreational opportunities,” said Tom Vogl, CEO of The Mountaineers.
"The Great American Outdoors Act would help agencies and partner organizations, like the Washington Trails Association, take great strides in reducing the trail maintenance backlogs on our public lands. As an organization that donates more than 160,000 hours of volunteer labor to trails every year, WTA knows firsthand what it takes to keep the places we love accessible. We're thankful for all the work Representative DelBene and members of Washington's congressional delegation have done to make this dream a reality, and help achieve our vision of trails for everyone, forever,” said Andrea Imler, Advocacy Director for the Washington Trails Association.
The Senate passed the bill on June 17. It now goes to the president for his signature.
More information about the Great American Outdoors Act can be found here.